Part Two: The wedding was a happy occasion, and I enjoyed my couple of days in Minneapolis. It is a very pleasant city. But I needed to continue my journey. My plan was to reach Toronto in two days driving, with a short layover in Chicago – I would decide how long when I got there. To drive from Minneapolis to Toronto via Detroit is 1500 km. It took me from Minnesota through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan to Ontario. I set out early and headed south and east towards the Windy City. It was a long day’s drive. I didn’t have air conditioning in the station wagon so drove along with windows down and the wind blowing through my hair. Remember this little detail for part 3. It was a good drive. The scenery though Wisconsin was lovely, rolling hills and farmland. It was getting late in the day as I saw the city of Chicago looming ahead. Driving in the mid-west in Canada or the States is interesting. The flat land allows you to see the cities in the distance as you approach. At first you see the tops of the taller buildings, small blocks on the distant horizon. As you get closer they grow gradually taller and form a city skyline.
I had been looking forward to seeing Chicago, the city of gangsters and speakeasies. But, as I got closer, the dark shapes of the city took on an ominous presence. I started to feel distinctly discomforted. The closer I got the more the feeling grew. I made a decision and turned away to take the road that would by-pass Chicago and head towards the southern tip of Lake Michigan at the top of Indiana (go figure). I decided I would drive around the end of the lake and find a small town to stay over night.
I don’t remember the small touristy town I stopped in, but is was very small. I found a motel – it was one of those with rooms arranged in a square around a central swimming pool.
I checked in. I was assigned a ground-floor, poolside room. The desk clerk mumbled something to me as he handed me the key. “Pardon me?” I said “I didn’t quite catch that”. After three attempts (he had a strong accent and mumbled) I understood his message. “Be sure to lock your pool-side door when you retire”. I won’t be staying that long I thought, but when I go to bed I’ll be sure to lock the door. The man seemed nervous and had a strange look in his eyes as he told me to lock the door.
I found somewhere to get something to eat and retired to my room, remembering to check that the sliding glass doors to the pool were locked.
It was about 8 pm, and I was really tired, but wired from all the driving. I decided to watch some television – complimentary with the room. I flicked through channels and found nothing of interest. I kept flicking and stumbled upon a channel showing a movie. It had Mia Farrow in it, I thought I would enjoy that.
After about ten minutes of watching the movie I realized it was Rosemary’s Baby! Yikes, I don’t like horror movies at the best of times. Alone in a strange motel, in lower Michigan after driving all day was definitely not the best of times.
I switched off the TV and settled down. Eventually I was brave enough to turn off the bedside lamp. I eventually fell into a deep sleep.
I had a vivid nightmare. I dreamed there were two, tall figures dressed all in grey standing beside my bed. They were just silently standing there looking down at me. I was terrified. The dream was so real it woke me up. I opened my eyes, sat up sweating and shaking – and the two figures were still there. The hair stood up on my head and the two figures slowly faded away. There was no one there. Just the side of the wardrobe. Now I knew how Scrooge must have felt when Jacob came calling.
I was dressed and on the road by 5 am. Maybe I was tired after a long day; maybe it was a combination of the weird desk clerk and his ominous message; maybe it was the thoughts of Rosemary and her baby – or maybe, well let’s not go there. Let’s just say I was happy to get an early start. Even Detroit sounded better than another five minutes in the Nightmare Motel.